The heme oxygenase system as a therapeutic intervention for psoriasis

Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory skin disease that causes cells to build up rapidly on the surface of the skin, forming thick silvery scales that become itchy, dry and sometimes painful. Current treatments for psoriasis depend on disease severity and include topical ointments, light therapy and systemic medications which are reserved for more severe cases. Many of these systemic medications are associated with severe side-effects and as a result can only be used for limited periods of time hence there is a need to develop additional therapies with fewer adverse reactions. In recent years the mechanisms driving psoriasis-associated skin inflammation have been elucidated and key pro-inflammatory molecules have been identified. We and others have found that we can block the production of these molecules by turning on a pathway which leads to the production of anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant molecules called linear tetrapyrroles (LTPs). Interestingly, these molecules are also produced in large quantities by blue-green algae such as Spirulina platensis (also referred to as Spirulina, a commonly consumed dietary supplement). We have developed a method to extract LTPs from native Irish algae and propose to test these molecules along with their synthetic commercially available counterparts (currently produced from animal products or bacteria) in human blood cells and skin cells from healthy individuals and those suffering from psoriasis. There is no treatment that can cure psoriasis. However, it is possible to control and clear it. Because these products are produced naturally and are consumed in Spirulina as an immune boosting agent they are likely to represent a safe and attractive treatment option for the prevention/treatment of psoriasis either as components of topical agents or as food additives.

Award Date
20 June 2014
Award Value
Principal Investigator
Professor Aisling Dunne
Host Institution
Trinity College Dublin
Health Research Awards